Rookie pad­dlers to make waves of their own

KZN ca­noeists go from river to ocean as they tackle de­mand­ing Cape Point Chal­lenge

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - MUR­RAY WIL­LIAMS

FROM THE famed Val­ley of a Thou­sand Hills to the crash­ing shores of Cape Point – two young men will to­day at­tempt a jour­ney of dis­cov­ery.

The sport­ing story of Kwanda Mhlophe, 19, and Richard Cele, 21, be­gan in 2008 when Dusi ca­noe marathon leg­end Martin Dreyer made his­tory by win­ning his sev­enth ti­tle with the race’s first black win­ner, Michael Mban­jwa.

Af­ter years of vic­to­ries around the globe, Dreyer’s fi­nal dream was to nur­ture dis­ad­van­taged young pad­dlers from KwaZulu-Natal.

He felt that for too long lo­cal youths had watched from the banks of the Umzin­dusi River as thou­sands of ca­noeists pad­dled by, with­out the chance to par­tic­i­pate.

While train­ing with Mban­jwa, prior to win­ning the Dusi in a record time to­gether, Dreyer re­alised what po­ten­tial there was.

With cor­po­rate back­ing, Dreyer launched the Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy two years ago, and its suc­cess has sur­passed even his ex­pec­ta­tions.

On the Dusi 2009 his team achieved two plac­ings in the top 10 and seven in the top 20. This year, his team se­cured third place, and a vic­tory and third place in the no­to­ri­ously tough Non-Stop Dusi.

The pad­dlers in the dou­ble ca­noe that clinched bronze were Mhlophe and Cele.

Fast-for­ward a few months to an­other of the world’s most de­mand­ing pad­dling races: the Fenn Cape Point Chal­lenge, now in its 18th year, and or­gan­ised by Cape pad­dling cham­pion Peter Cole, who wanted to repli­cate Dreyer’s trans­for­ma­tion on the sea.

The re­sult is that Mhlophe and Cele will to­day com­pete in one of the tough­est ocean pad­dling races on earth.

Round­ing Cape Point, home of leg­ends such as the ghostly Fly­ing Dutch­man sail­ing ship, is nei­ther for the faint-hearted nor in­ex­pe­ri­enced. The pair will pad­dle on two dou­ble surf­skis, pi­loted by Cole and fel­low ocean war­rior Steve Far­rell.

“They have never been on the ocean be­fore, but such is their fit­ness pedi­gree that I have no ques­tion that guided by two ex­pe­ri­enced pad­dlers, they will be able to com­plete the chal­lenge,” Dreyer said.

“The only pos­si­ble curve­ball is that one can­not know how they fare with pos­si­ble sea-sick­ness.

“But a bonus is that be­cause they haven’t ex­pe­ri­enced it, they can­not fear it.”

Week­end Ar­gus in­ter­viewed the pair yes­ter­day on Fish Hoek beach, where they punched through the surf for a first and fi­nal prac­tice.

Mhlophe said: “I’m a lit­tle scared of the big waves – it will be my first ex­pe­ri­ence of pad­dling on the open ocean – but I’m very ex­cited, es­pe­cially pad­dling with Peter. Martin’s told us a lot of good things about him, so we’ll be fine.”

Cele said: “Just be­ing here in Cape Town for the first time, my first time on a plane, my first time on the sea …

“There are sharks, so I hope they won’t try to catch us.”

Around 200 pad­dlers will start the race at Scar­bor­ough, fac­ing 50km around the Point to the fin­ish at Fish Hoek.

PIC­TURE: JA­SON BOUD

SALT OF THE OCEAN: KZN pad­dlers Kwanda Mhlophe and Richard Cele, who are more used to rivers than the ocean, will to­day at­tempt to round Cape Point in the Fenn Cape Point Chal­lenge. Yes­ter­day they tasted salt-wa­ter pad­dling for the first time with lo­cal surf­ski aces Peter Cole and Simon van Gy­sen.

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